Doctor changes plea in kidnapping
December 18, 2002
A Carson City doctor, accused of kidnapping his former wife and drugging her, pleaded guilty Tuesday in Douglas County District Court.
Dr. Richard Conte, 54, admitted to drugging Lark Gathright-Elliott at her Salt Lake City home and driving her to his Clear Creek Road house in Douglas County against her will.
After some discussion about whether Gathright-Elliott willingly entered his car, Conte admitted: “I kidnapped my estranged wife.”
“I became distraught about opening a late wedding gift and was hoping she would get back together with me,” Conte said in court. They had been married in December 2001.
He allegedly used a semiautomatic pistol equipped with a silencer and laser sight or scope while kidnapping his former wife. In a plea bargain between Conte and the District Attorney’s Office, the weapons charge was dropped.
In court, Judge David Gamble asked Conte if Gathright-Elliott was his patient.
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Conte, who had worked for Carson-Tahoe Hospital for 10 years at the time of his arrest, said she had been a patient in the past, but was not when he kidnapped her and gave her Ativan and Benadryl.
Gathright-Elliott, 45, had told investigators she was kidnapped at gunpoint, drugged and taken on a nine-hour drive from Utah to the Clear Creek home, where she was handcuffed to a bed.
Alerted by family members, a friend talked Conte into releasing her, and she was later treated at Washoe Medical Center for pain and loss of feeling in her thumbs from the restraints, then returned to Utah.
In court Tuesday, Conte explained he wanted to get back together with his former wife.
His sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 18. Originally, he denied the charges and jury selection for his trial was to being Feb. 3.
For more than 20 years, Conte was a friend to the Gathright family, who said he was respected and well-liked. The kidnapping was a shock to them.
Family members began worrying after Gathright-Elliott failed to show up for work June 20. When they received an e-mail, purportedly from her saying she was OK, they began making phone calls that eventually led them to Conte, who admitted he had his her with him drugged and handcuffed to the bed.
Sheriff’s deputies arrested Conte on June 22.